A View to a Kill (1985) OK, so yes, Roger Moore is a smidge too old to be playing 007, and yes, the obvious use of stunt doubles reaches punchline status, and yes, a screeching Tanya Roberts is one of the franchise’s weakest links, and yes, the use of “California Girls” is unfortunate. But A View to a Kill also has a terrific sense of humor, a good number of expertly crafted action sequences, a brilliant John Barry score and an even brillianter Duran Duran theme song, and, best of all, a crackerjack performance from Christopher Walken, whose oddly casual psychopath ranks among the best in Bond villainy. There’s plenty of damn fine work on display throughout, hardly the disaster its reputation may suggest. I grew up watching this movie, I’ll grow old watching this movie, and I’ll never not thrill to an axe-wielding Zorin chasing Bond atop the Golden Gate, because it’ll never not be awesome.
Bop Girl Goes Calypso (1957) You know how it is: you stumble upon a movie by accident, watch it on a lark, have a great time, and wind up obsessed with it. And by “you” I mean “me.” Bop Girl Goes Calypso is a giddy low-rent rock musical that aims directly at my soul and hits so many B-movie genre notes I love. (Even the title is a kitschy pop of perfection.) The set-up is twenty kinds of bonkers, with a bookish grad student studying pop music’s effect on the population, concluding that rock is on the way out, baby, and calypso is way in. I’m tickled by flicks from the pre-Beatles era that assumed rock and roll to be a passing fad, doubly tickled by one like this that assumes the one musical genre that eventually did fizzle as a fad would be the one to stay forever. Well, maybe not – it ends with the triumph of calypso, but it hedges its bets by loading the picture with rock, too. Les Baxter provides most of the tunes (most memorably “I’m Gonna Rock and Roll ‘Til I Die,” set to a funeral dirge and performed by ghouls in coffins!), with a parade of guest acts keeping everything moving. The real joy, however, is in Bop Girl herself; Judy Tyler’s bubbly performance is a sheer delight, especially when she’s tearing through a song and tearing up the dance floor. It’s a movie I can’t shake out of my head.
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) I adore this movie. And when I adore a movie, it stays adored. Full write-up here.
Iron Man Three (2013) So all those times I complained about Marvel movies wasting valuable real estate on setting up the next movie? I have no complaints here. Iron Man Three (oh, how I dig the cheeky end credits spelling) builds on the previous films – most notably The Avengers – in clever ways, tweaking the Tony Stark character with new motivations and obsessions, yet handling it smartly enough to be accessible for newcomers. The screenplay does nimble dances like this throughout, tipping its hat to the greater Marvel universe while stubbornly remaining a self-contained adventure. And hot damn, what an adventure – this one is funny, tense, exciting, a pinch emotional, and above all smart. Shane Black’s stamp is all over this one, and the change of pace reinvigorates not only the Iron Man franchise but hopefully the entire Marvel series.
Holiday (1938) Sure, Cary Grant starts the film engaged to Doris Nolan, but let’s face it. As soon as Katharine Hepburn shows up, Nolan doesn’t stand a chance. It’s simple math, people. (Anyway: Holiday remains a sheer delight.)
Ski Party (1965) Where else can you see Lesley Gore, James Brown, and a yodeling polar bear in the same movie? Full write-up here.
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) Harryhausen!
Grease 2 (1982) There’s a certain subset of Generation X which grew up with Grease 2 in perpetual cable TV broadcast, which means they grew up loving it. I am one of that subset. With this latest umpteenth viewing, I marveled as always at the energy Patricia Birch brings to the film – as a choreographer, she turns the movie into something that’s visually dynamic, especially in the musical numbers – but for perhaps the first time, I also marveled at just how alive this movie feels all around. For all its campiness, Grease 2 moves like a firecracker, as evident in scenes like this one, much maligned over the decades for its seeming crassness, but hot damn, just look at that cast, bursting with excitement, brought to life by Birch’s smart camera work and dead-on editing. It’s a great scene in a great, great movie. Far from being one of cinema’s greatest flops, Grease 2 is a tremendous joy.